With children going back to school, both students and teachers need to relearn how to navigate music education after the COVID-19 pandemic. With the majority of music education being conducted through online avenues due to COVID-19 restrictions, getting back to the classroom will definitely have a learning curve. Now that children are back in person, they have to learn how to harmonize with each other and rediscover their confidence. The pandemic unfortunately interrupted music instruction for many elementary school students at a critical time in their lives where their brains are just starting to make “sound to meaning” connections. While it’s great that music education can be in person again, it will be challenging to make up for lost time.
As these elementary school students head back to school, most of them will be taking a formal music class for the very first time. The most common introduction to music is through the use of the musical recorder instrument. The recorder instrument is a popular choice for young music education, as it is thought to prepare students to play other instruments. Musical recorders help children understand music theory, practice creative thinking skills, and develop finger dexterity.
What is the recorder instrument and its history?
The musical recorder is often referred to as the original flute. It is an “internal duct flute,” which means that is has a whistle mouthpiece. Recorder instruments come in a variety of sizes and are traditionally made of wood and ivory. Today, most teachers give students molded plastic recorders that are both cheap and durable.
The recorder instrument dates back to the European Middle Ages and was a popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Bach, Purcell, Monteverdi, and other composers wrote concertos specifically for the musical recorder. During the Classical and Romantic periods, the recorder instrument fell out of favor, as many claimed it was “ungentlemanly” to play an instrument featuring a mouthpiece.
By the 1900s, German composer Carl Orff decided to use the soprano recorder as a music education tool. He used teaching methods that focused on movement, rhythm, and creative thinking to help make learning more enjoyable for younger children. Orff believed that if children could sing the notes they were playing, they would have a better understanding of the basic principles of music theory. The soprano recorder is the best choice for this as it is easy to play and similar to the vocal ranges of small children. You also don’t have to possess a good embouchure (the shaping of the muscles in your mouth) to play the recorder instrument, so it’s a great starter instrument.
Benefits of learning the recorder instrument
There are many benefits to learning the musical recorder instrument. Musical recorder curriculum not only teaches young children music theory, but helps them develop interpersonal skills as well. Below are the top 6 benefits for teaching elementary school students musical recorder curriculum.
Helps with language capabilities
Studies have shown that consistent music education helps children develop a larger vocabulary and enhances their reading comprehension skills. Evidence suggests that the area of the brain that controls both musical ability and language comprehension are more connected than once thought. Through music education, students are required to recognize and repeat pitch, tone, and enunciation of words. Especially in elementary-aged children, music directly influences their ability to learn words, say them correctly, and process new sounds they hear around them.
Musical recorder curriculum and music education in general requires high levels of memorization. Students need to read music by sight and play the correlating notes on their recorder instrument. These requirements benefit the overall memory center of the brain. Studies have shown that musicians outperformed non-musicians in visual, auditory, and memory tests. Music is also easily stored in our memory and can be a tool used to help remember more difficult things.
Strengthens hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
Playing the musical recorder has been shown to enhance both dexterity and hand-eye coordination skills. When playing the recorder instrument, a student has to be able to create the correct notes through hand motions that produce sound. Students have to learn how to use their breath at the same time, which helps them with multitasking. All while this is happening, the student also has to read their music and follow the conductor. The younger the child is, the greater the opportunity there is to grow these fine motor skills.
Teaches powerful study habits
As children age, academic curriculum gets more challenging. They begin to spend more time in the classroom being introduced to new subjects that they are then expected to remember and use when doing homework. Children that are exposed to proper music education learn powerful study habits, as learning music requires effort and consistent practice. These learned skills translate over to other areas of study.
While music is often viewed as a way to foster individual expression, it can also be a great tool for teaching teamwork. Musical recorder curriculum teaches elementary students to work together in order to create a cohesive and technically sound performance. Often, students will find a sense of belonging in their music classes as it helps form a community of like-minded peers.
Improves mental processing and problem solving
One the most useful benefits of musical recorder curriculum is the improved ability to process situations and find solutions to problems. Studies have shown that students with musical training have larger levels of gray matter volume in their brains, which is directly correlated with auditory processing and understanding. Music really benefits the formation of relationships, as music education teaches students to listen to others, pick up on emotion, and react with a deeper understanding.
Music recorder curriculum benefits children in so many ways beyond just learning to play an instrument. Music education teaches students how to better navigate through life by providing them with the necessary skills and tools to take on whatever challenges they face.